31 October 2009

quick update

I'm trying to write at least a post per month, so here's October, roughly.

First off...I'm year 3 now, the final year in my degree and a lot of work will go into that. I had a few good ideas for my projects, but it so happened that this year it won't be a solo project. I will work with a friend from Canterbury who studies FRTV (Film-Radio-Television) on a movie project. She will take have to deal with the script, props, actors, and what not, I will be doing the soundtrack. Soundtrack ? Yes!

Sound if one the those things that scared me. I work with visual stuff most of the time and its my comfort zone. I've always been scared of playing with sound/music, I never played any instrument, never was good at anything related to it. Now that I understand roughly how sound works in geeky terms (longitudinal pressure waves), all this is like a black hole...a whole new world awaiting for me to get sucked into. That is good, but that goes to prove that there is no support for visual things ( drawing, animation ) in our Creative Computing course, but there is plenty for sound though.

Ever since this project started, things started to fall into place like jigsaw pieces, one at a time, nice and steady. The more I researched sound the more I found confirmations to get rid of my fears. The first books on sound I got my hands/eyes/head on are: "This is your brain on music" and "Musical beginnings".
Aside a lot of interesting research on sound and how it works on your body( It seems the fetus starts to develop his/her auditory system between weeks 8 and 11, later it distinguishes voices, it recognizes the mother voice, it gets accustomed and calmed by rhythms (hear beats), etc. ), things you can read more by yourselves, and hopefully I can blog about them more in time. There was a part that gave me courage:
"There are two widespread myths about musical excellence. The first of these is that high levels of musical accomplishment are necessarily rare. The second is that these high levels of skills are predicated on particular unusual early musical attributes or capacities." - John Sloboda in Musical Beginnings.

I will test this things as I go along, but so far it's been nothing but confidence.
If I think of cymatics and the Jared Ficklin and Craig Swan's sessions at Flash On The Beach...since were all just grouped particles, suddenly stories about magical spells (words that resonate to the right frequencies to change matter) don't seem that far from the truth.

Weird ... :)

Anyway...back to this 'real' world

What I will do is generate a soundtrack on the fly as the movie is being shot. Using computer vision and a few fancy microphone setups as inputs I will generate music that will be in tune with what happens visually on the screen. Since this will be a translation of movement into sound partially...there is a lot of history on that side in Digital Performance. On the other side, post production, there are people developing clever systems to analyze video and annotations to produce soundtracks. We are bit stuck in the middle, and I am not sure where we might go with this. It seems like a fun and interesting thing to explore and we'll see what will happen.

As i said, things fall into place with this project. I need to get the grips with computer vision. I've played with actionscript and webcams a bit, but nothing fancy. openCV has tons of cool things already implemented so I'm pretty sure we'll use that. It so happens that Arturo Castro and Joel Gethin Lewis ( who blew people away with his projects at Flash On The Beach this year ) will teach Computer Vision at Goldsmiths for 4 days.

"Goldsmiths Digital Studios is pleased to announce a Computer
workshop using
openFrameworks on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th of November 2009 lead by Arturo
(co-founder of
openFrameworks) and Joel Gethin Lewis and
hosted by Goldsmiths College’s MFA Computational Studio
You will gain a very good insight into what you can control
through video and be able to work on interactive projects involving
motion-tracking, face and body recognition and identification and more.
There will a group for beginners, starting off with some basics in
object-oriented coding and an advanced group who will dive straight into
computer vision. If you’d like to get a sample of openFrameworks in action,
check out Made With openFrameworks"

I've never programmed in C++ before and I haven't used openFrameworks. I've setup OF using the easy to follow instructions on their website. Browsed through a few samples and so far it doesn't look that hard. I'll get used to namespaces probably. I've spotted methods familiar to Processing ( setup, update, draw, etc. ) and it feels confy :)

Hopefully I will document my project using this blog so you will hear more about this.

I haven't ditched Flash, I don't think I will. Lately I've met some brilliant people that use a lot of cool stuff, mostly more powerful than Flash, but they still use Flash and enjoy it. I found that reassuring.

Speaking of people I've met, I will try to tell you a little bit about them.
One of them is Michael Jewell who is a researcher at Goldsmiths. Remember I've mentioned people that develop clever systems that make soundtracks in postproduction ? You can read more about that in his thesis. Aside that he made a few good games for State Of Play. One of them is Moshi Monsters and I couldn't believe the technical details of the project. Some mad actionscript bytecode action going behind the scenes. Michael hasn't updated his blog in a while, but he's got some cool stuff there.

I went to a few geeky workshops lately at Space. There is a guy that I will not mention his name yet. We meet in situations like this (Arduino workshop in this case, Away3D workshop last year, etc. ) and its funny how these things just happen.

Aside OpenProcessing and HasCanvas, there is an actionscript version of a Processing online prototyping tool called SketchPatch. I've met Davide, one of the co-founders of the project at a Chip Tune workshop, nerding away on 8bit noise. The project looks pretty good but there are always things to be added, and I hope I can lend a hand.

Still on the Flash side of things, LazyBoy, a handy extension I wrote for Flash, that got featured in WebDesigner Magazine, is now also on the Adobe Exchange website. If you use the Flash IDE and work with classes and custom layout designs, this might save time setting up.

Since Uni started, there is plenty to do there ( year 3 project, openGL course, Physical Computing course ) so I'm working part time, which means I don't have the time to get involved in the big projects at disturb. I'm missing out on fun, and getting more things that can be handled in the 2.5 days per week I'm there. Somehow lately I've managed to get some fun out of it. I've built a few tools that would do the work for me. Even things that were supposed to be dull ended up being fun which is great. I hope I can get that happening for a long time now. The latest project was a quick karaoke thing, I might not be able to talk more about it as most of the things we do at disturb are secret. I wish I can post some of the tools. I worked with our new designer, Jason Turner. I thought I recognized him from somewhere, he is one of the finalists in the Cut&Paste Digital Design Tournament...that is like Live Coding for Designers :)
New designer, as in extra one, yup we're 8 of us now at disturb and Chris is coming back from Australia...woo hoo! ASS! ASS! I bet he's all saturated with Mumatron love by now...WHUT ?

I keep meaning to post some tutorials never have the time. There's plenty of things in the bag, let's just hope we won't have to wait until Christmas.

Yup, things have gone mad busy again, but it's all good so far.

Until next time,
SMILE! ^_^

28 September 2009


It's been a week since FOTB 09 finished. A great event, better than last year, but for some reason, not as magical as FOTB07, this IMHO.

This year was balanced between design and development from one point of view, and maybe to techie from another. Advantage for techies, which most of them this year presented creative projects, creative coders like: Dr.WooHoo, Joel Gethin Lewis, Jeremy Thorp, Joel Baumann, Karsten Schmidt[Toxi], Craig Swann, Mario Klingemann, Jared Ficklin, Joshua Davis, etc.

Maybe it is just me, but this year the sessions seemed to be resonate more in tune with last year's Jonathan Harris' talk. Less spoken ( yes Joel Gethin Lewis, I heard you loud and clear about that 2001,2002 project done in Director and Havok ), but more proven. The great projects this year weren't necessarily build using flash/actionscript. Even the flash related project proved that you can achieve a lot more by going outside the box. Here are some simple examples that come to mind right now: Keith Peters' game framework, inspired by cocos2d, Chuck Freedman's Stereo Microphone, and of course Joa Ebert's Apparat. Joa basically, pardon the expresion, bitch slapped Adobe with those tools. Well done! While in the last years I heard more about Flash and Flex, this year words like Processing and OpenFrameworks resonated in my ears. Maybe that is what I wanted to hear.
There were quite a few designer sessions, but compared to last years, I seem more attracted to creative computing at the moment. Oh, and I almost forgot, I've met Branden Hall there and he and Joshua Davis are working on a project that sounds pretty cool. Maybe it was too soon for Joshua to talk about their project called Hype, but I wish he did.

Right, I'll keep my opinions short. Sorry, no pictures or videos to share...but I do have something. I kept writting tiny notes in an xml file and during a session I've managed to write a minimal viewer for my notes. There might be a lot of spelling mistakes, unless it gets too frustrating, ignore them.

Maybe there are a few references here and there that might be handy.

I have collected a list of resources (videos, slides) related to Flash On The Beach 09. Here goes:

Julian Dolce

iPhone App Development For Flash Developers - http://deleteaso.com/iphone-workshop/

Lee Brimelow

Down And Dirty With The Low Level Bytes - http://theflashblog.com/?p=1391
As Mike Chambers pointed out some time ago, a lot of videos available on the FITC website. There is a video of Lee talking about ByteArrays.

Keith Peters

Casual Game Architecture: How to finish coding a game without despising it - http://www.bit-101.com/blog/?p=2402

Mike Chambers

Advanced Desktop Development with Adobe AIR - http://www.mikechambers.com/blog/2009/09/22/fotb-slides-advanced-desktop-development-with-adobe-air/

Carlos Ulloa

HelloEnjoy - http://www.lfpug.com/we-make-you-enjoy/

Rich Shupe

Lead the Hand and the Arm will Follow: Inverse Kinematics in Flash CS4 - http://www.learningflashcs4.com/2009/09/20/inverse-kinematics-in-flash-cs4-fotb09/

Elevator Pitch
3 Minute Wonders


Grant Skinner

Quick as a Flash - gskiner.com/talks/quick Truth is, Grant Skinner talks quick :) He managed to go through 100 slides in 1 hour.

Peter Elst

The Secret Life of a Flash Freelancer - http://www.peterelst.com/blog/2009/09/22/the-secret-life-of-a-flash-freelancer/

Joa Ebert

Leaving The Sandbox - http://de.sevenload.com/videos/PRm9XUh-Joa-Ebert-FOTB
Live Coding - http://blog.joa-ebert.com/2009/09/28/fotb-recordings/,

Lisa Larson

NEVER MIND the Buffer! FMS Made Easy - http://www.flashconnections.com/?p=112

Richard Lord

Application Frameworks: The good, the bad, and the ugly - http://www.bigroom.co.uk/blog/application-frameworks-at-fotb

Paul Burnett

More than Bending Pixels - http://www.mad.com.au/blog/?p=579

Hugh Elliott

The 10 Best Excuses to NOT do Amazing Work - http://wheniwas19.com/speaking/fotb/09/10Excuses/fotb09_brighton.html

Colin Moock's Union and MegaPhone and Joshua Davis' Space similar presentations can be found on the Flash In The Can website.

Colin's presentation made it clear that there is an easy option to get started and make things multiplayer in flash. The code written in a few minutes at fotb can be found on the Union site. The Reactor SWC lives here.

You can find out more about Hype on http://hype.joshuadavis.com/ tar. I looks like a good start, but I see at a teacher approach. You know how teachers always tempt you by showing something simple, and bit by bit it all gets complicated ? That's how I see this. Designers can use these snippets/behaviours and have fun. After a while they will want more and more, but it will get slower and slower so in order to have they're ideas work, they will end up getting familiar with the geeky parts of as3. There is an informative post on the FDT blog. So designers, don't believe the Hype ...use it! :)
The Keynote this year had a few sneak peaks of Flash CS5, which in my opinion will bring a few enhancements to CS4 but will not be as different from CS4 as CS3 used to be. Some of the features are Flash-Flex(Flash Builder) integration and TextLayoutFramework integration(imagine inDesign layouts with dynamic content in Flash) I won't go on with this, I'm sure you can find out more on Flash Magazine and other sites/blogs as well. Speaking of resources, I wonder what happened to the videos filmed on the FOTB stages.

Hope you will find these useful. If you have more links to slides from FOTB09 let me know and I will update this post.

The new University year started and things look busy. Until the next post, all the best!

12 September 2009

disturb media launched twigital

I am proud to present a new site we launched at disturb media called Twigital.
It is created to help promote the greatest media events on their way as you read this: London Digital Week and Flash On The Beach.
Twigital populates London with characters who've recently Tweeted about London Digital Week and Flash on the Beach '09. If you Tweet mentioning #ldw or #fotb then you'll appear on the landscape.
You can also search for any other word or topic you fancy.

We are trying to improve twigital so your feedback is greatly appreciated. Be sure to check it out.

In case you are wondering, this project uses Papervision 3D and the graphics are made by the amazing Heaps Awesome Patrol Captain/Designer Chris Phillips.

Chris and Alex are featured in issue 161 of Web Designer Magazine with a full flash gaming tutorial.

Well done!

23 August 2009



It's been a while since my last post(again), almost a year now.
Sooo, what shall I start with ? Things change on a day to day basis, later in this post
I will list some stuff that happened and I didn't mention on the blog.
But first, I haven't been present online much, well, no blog posts, before last year I had a twitter account with 2 or 3 twitts in a full year, etc.

I somehow managed to get caught in this whole web 2.0 thing a bit.
I started to tweet more. Less than normal people but a lot more according to my 'low' standards. I got caught by a hash tag, #songsincode namely. First I had a few simple simple but somewhat lame attemptsjavascript:void(0):
"roll(4);roll(9);this.find(this) = Location.PARADISE; "(BabyShambles),
"var i=this;i.want(somethingGood(i.die(4))).makeItBeautifulToLive();i.want(new Mistake());lose > hesitate;"(Queens Of The Stone Age),
"var i=this;i.ahead=true;i.man=true;i.mammalToWearPantsID=1;trace('yeah')with(i.lust){i.atPeace=true}if(i.trustGod)i.canKill=true"(Pearl Jam),
"!we.areScaremongering; this.isReallyHappening;"(Radiohead).

Some worked better ( Life.kill(self) TypeONegative ) than others
( new HeadAches();new HeartBreaks();(this.age > this.capacity) && this.affection = Math.sin(angle%360*Math.PI/180);angle++; The Killers ) , but later I decided to go for a full song.

"for(var i=0 ; i < 12*12 ; i++) trace("Around The World"); "
Daft Punk - Around The World :)

Ok that might not count so I actually tweeted the first that came to mind involving creation of new objects, Buttons and what not. I've used Mathue's awesome time traveling technique to do this.
Here goes(drum rolls) The White Stripes - Hardest Button To Button in 21 #songsincode twitts.

Aside this I try answer questions often enough on stackoverflow. In case you don't know what stackoverflow is, just take a quick peek. It's a website where geeks(mainly) exchange questions/answers.

As you might have noticed, I'm posting pretty geeky stuff lately. There is a reason for that. As I said at the top of this post things changed.

I no longer live or study in Canterbury. I had a great time because there are a lot of great students out there I had a great time with. I've done a few interesting projects there, but since I stayed there for about a year and I couldn't find a job, although I am an Adobe Certified Professional with Flash ( Design and Development ) and have been working for a while, I still couldn't find a job, so I left.

I was lucky to meet Euan Millar, a very interesting guy I met at my first Flash On Beach in 2007. It turns out that now he is one of my employers and for the last year I have been working at disturb media. We've done quite a few interesting thing here, although most of them are secret!(Shhhh!!!)
We (at disturb) got featured in Web Designer Magazine issue 157 and again in the current issue(160)

There's a cute extension I wrote on the CD of the magazine, an also available on the blog post online.

We like playing with APIs like Papervision3D, Away3D, Box2D, GoogleMaps(go Alex!), FLARToolkit, etc. So far anything goes. If we come up with an idea, there's not much stopping us, a thing I missed while working back home. I am constantly attracted by new technologies and I'm glad I have the change to play with most of them.

Recently Iulia Nastasoiu, a brilliant Java Developer will join our team starting tomorrow. I had the pleasure of working with her previously and we wrote the Dithering class posted here last year. Alse we used to study at the same university back in Canterbury. Welcome to our team!

About Dithering and all that. Many of my older posts are broken as the server where the files used to live is asleep right now for an unknown period of time. Big thanks to Bogdan Ciocoiu who hosted my all that time free of charge and helped me when I really needed. I still have the files on my hdd and hopefully I will fix those posts as I have a new domain I don't use much nowadays.

I still study, only now I don't study Fine Arts and Digital Media anymore. Which means I have been drawing less, but still haven't given up drawing, mainly thanks to Ayue.

I've played a bit with opensource 3d tools. I got used to 3dsmax and that doesn't work on mac osx. I tried wings 3d which I love for sub division modeling, and blender which crashes pretty often because of the crappy GPU macbooks have these days. Modeling is fine, rendering, not so fine. I've tried a few ray tracers and POVRay keeps crashing, RenderMan works, but it's commercial, yafaray is cool, but it was tough to setup. I haven't tried Pixie yet, but it looks promising.

Here are a few abstract models I did in spring using wings 3d.

I don't study Fine Arts anymore and don't have any class on drawing (sigh!), and I know I'm pretty lazy by default. I've been pretty geeky lately as I now study Creative Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London.
One of the main reasons I chose this programs was pretty random. I've won an Arduino board at one of the London Flash Platform User Group meetings which I try to attend as often as possible and wanted to learn how to use that toy.
So far this program is the best combination of Geeky/Artsy education you can get around here. Well I wish there was more to study related to color theory/layout/typography/etc...but can't have everything at once can I ? Speaking of Arduino boards we are studying Physical Computing starting September with Dr. Tim Blackwell as far as I know. More Max/MSP/Jitter on its way with Dr. Mick Grierson, OpenGL and Java with Dr. Marco Gilles, and my first lecture with a Romanian Lecturer in London, involving Interactive and Narrative Media with Dr. Marian Ursu.
I like it so far, I've learned a lot of things I wouldn't imagine learning by myself, I feel a lot more confident with code and stopped believing Flash is the greatest thing ever. Yup, that is what I used to believe, not matter what anyone said. I've been using it for a few good years now, got over 5320 hours of commercial work done and surely am heading for the 10000. I will not give it up, but I have to spend time to learn all this new things that these people teach me at Goldsmiths.

Yet again I don't know what to do, but it's fine now...it means I have more choices. Some things will need to change and there is a lot of work to be done.

I will try to post things I've done this year that were pretty interesting and hopefully useful to others. As usual I hope to blog more, and maybe the posts won't be as long as this one. There are a lot of things unsaid, but they'll all come in good time. Ideally I will be able to keep a balance on personal stuff/geeky(flash and others) and artsy stuff.

Big thanks, you know why!

P.S. Now that I've managed to blog about most things that were on my mind, so apologies to the people that ended up on this page because of #songsincode :)